APL Colloquium

October 12, 2007

Colloquium Topic: Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III

As a spacefaring nation, the United States depends upon space-based systems for myriad national security, commercial and civil services. That dependency also means "space" is a critical node of vulnerability. Any disruption of America's fragile space infrastructure has immediate-and serious-consequences. What if a critical satellite orbiting high above the Earth simply dies? What if another goes silent? Then another? What if military and civilian experts cannot quickly determine what's causing these orbital fatalities? What recourses are available to national leaders, if those experts determine the losses are not attributable to natural causes, but to rogue elements flexing their muscles? And what if those satellite losses occur during a maelstrom of geopolitical chaos? This is the chilling premise of Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III, which depicts how the first hours of World War III might play out. Although national security space officials have repeatedly sounded warnings about these "what-ifs," and their concerns were reported by mainstream and trade media, political leaders rarely paid any attention. Consequently, the authors elected to tell U.S. citizens, through fiction, what might happen, if the nation started losing critical space-based capabilities to an unknown entity. By putting technical and political "space" issues into context, they allow readers to vicariously experience the ramifications of losing satellites that routinely deliver communications, television, weather forecasting, missile defense, intelligence and precise navigation services. Space Wars also examines how modern wargames can explore "alternate futures," particularly in confusing situations that have no precedents, and may contribute to real-time decision-making by national leaders. Only weeks before Space Wars was released, the Chinese Army shot down one of its aging weather satellites. Suddenly, the fictional scenarios depicted in Space Wars seemed very plausible and only too possible. National leaders finally started paying attention. And the power of entertainment-fiction, in this case-to shape society's perceptions has been revalidated. That power of "storytelling" could be leveraged much better by the U.S. aerospace and defense sector to communicate technical capabilities and political issues to a larger audience.

Colloquium Speaker: William B. Scott

William B. Scott recently retired as the Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, based in Colorado Springs, CO. In 22 years with Aviation Week, he also served as Senior National Editor in Washington, and in Avionics and Senior Engineering Editor positions in Los Angeles. He focused primarily on advanced aerospace and weapons technology, business, flight testing and military operations, wrote more than 2,500 stories for the magazine, and received 17 editorial awards. He co-authored the book, Inside the Stealth Bomber: The B-2 Story, with Col. Rick Couch, a test pilot who directed the B-2 test program in its early days. Scott is a Flight Test Engineer (FTE) graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (Masters equivalent) and a licensed commercial pilot with instrument and multiengine ratings. In 12 years of military and civilian flight testing, plus evaluating aircraft for Aviation Week over 22 years, he logged approximately 2,000 flight hours on 78 aircraft types. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from California State University-Sacramento. During a nine-year Air Force career, Scott served as aircrew on classified nuclear sampling missions; an electronics engineering officer at the National Security Agency, working space communication security programs; and an instrumentation and flight test engineer. He was also a civilian FTE/program manager and proposal group manager for three aerospace companies: General Dynamics (F-16 Full Scale Development program), Falcon Jet Corp. (Coast Guard HU-25A development and certification), and Tracor Flight Systems Inc. (Canadair Challenger development and certification, plus numerous fighter, transport and helicopter test programs). Scott is a six-time Royal Aeronautical Society "Journalist of the Year" finalist. He won the Society's 1998 Lockheed Martin Award for the "Best Defense Submission," and received both the 2006 and 2007 Messier-Dowty awards for "Best Airshow Submission." He also was part of an Aviation Week team that won a 2004 Neal Award for its coverage of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. A Neal award is the business-to-business magazine equivalent of a newspaper Pulitzer Prize. In 2002, Scott served as a member of the U.S. Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management Blue Ribbon Commission on Wildland Aerial Firefighting. The three-month investigation examined all aspects of aerial firefighting, and identified a number of systemic factors that contributed to three fatal air tanker and helicopter accidents--including two wing-loss incidents--during the 2002 wildfire season.